Bradley Smith says his KTM crew chief gave him a “clip around the ear” for his Aragon Grand Prix qualifying performance, and knows he cannot afford a repeat on Sunday.
The Briton, who is under pressure to lift his game in order to keep his ride safe, could do no better than 13th in Q1 at the Spanish track, and will line up 23rd on the grid for the race.
That puts him well behind KTM’s other two riders, Mika Kallio and Pol Espargaro, who qualified 12th and 14th respectively.
Test rider Kallio was given an extra wildcard outing this weekend to help KTM assess whether Smith had made the necessary progress to be retained, and qualified directly into Q2 with the fifth-fastest time in third practice.
Smith admitted his own performance was subpar, and that his crew chief Esteban Garcia made his disappointment known.
“I know what’s going on inside the team, I know the team is fully behind me, they see the good moments,” he said. “Today was one of the bad ones, in qualifying.
“I hold my hands up and tomorrow I can’t make those mistakes. Certainly inside the team things are good, I just need to bring it to tomorrow’s race.
“[Garcia] gave me a clip round the ear for my mistakes in qualifying, but we’ll put those right.”
Kallio is riding a new bike with some 2018 parts this weekend, which Espargaro also has access to, but Smith said this does not account for the gap in pace between himself and his teammates.
“The new product is showing good performance, and it’s not [responsible for] the 1.1s gap there was today,” admitted Smith.
“I need to reduce that a lot for me to start pointing fingers at things like that. There’s a lot more to come from me than the bike.”
Kallio meanwhile said he was “disappointed” at his Q2 crash, but remained optimistic of a strong result at Aragon to back up his run to 10th place last month at the Red Bull Ring.
“I’m disappointed for that mistake, because I felt something more was coming and I lost the last minutes and didn’t improve the laptime,” said the Finn. “I thought we had a chance to be a few positions ahead of where we are now.
“But anyway, a really positive two days. We’ve been improving this weekend with the new parts, and the race will be interesting to see what we can do over a long distance.”
Additional reporting by William Zinck